© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Vice President Kamala Harris meets leaders from US colleges and universities in her ceremonial office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, US, August 8, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
By Erwin Seba
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – US Vice President Kamala Harris faces a less politically divided audience at the United Steelworkers convention on Wednesday compared to previous years, said members interviewed by Reuters, in an address expected to lean heavily on the administration’s job record.
Harris will be speaking to an audience that is less divided between former President Donald Trump supporters and opponents, as was visible at the last convention in 2017 or regional conferences since.
The four-day convention in Las Vegas has registered 3,500 union members and retirees of the largest North American industrial workers union.
Attendees said they wanted Harris to discuss how the Biden administration would support labor unions in contrast to the hostility some felt unions received from Trump.
“She needs to say the right things,” said Dennis Moore, who works at a rubber plant in Orange, Texas. “I need to hear what they’re going to do to help me when I’m bargaining or standing up for our members.”
Unlike past meetings, the red “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) caps and blue Trump T-shirts were not visible on USW members through the first three days of this year’s convention.
“I’m a little surprised at this meeting of the minds,” said a Texas chemical plant worker, who asked not to be identified by name. “It’s not as polarized. You don’t see the MAGA hats. I thought I would have. It’s not as contentious.”
At the close of the Tuesday afternoon session of the convention, USW International President Thomas Conway told guests they should expect to pass through security.
“And if you got some weapons strapped on you, good God, don’t bring them,” Conway said. “You’ll wind up in a jail somewhere in Las Vegas and we won’t know where you are.”
He reminded the union members why Harris was coming to convention.
“The administration is reaching out its hand to help us, to recognize our political power and to be a friend to us,” Conway said.